Cadel Evans takes leader’s yellow jersey

15Jan

Cadel Evans bounced back from an early scare on the first real mountain stage of the Tour de France on Sunday to match all his rivals and take possession of the yellow jersey.

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Evans, Australia’s two-time runner-up who finished a disappointing 30th overall in 2009, started the day in second place only 1min 25sec off the pace of Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel of Quick Step.

By the end of the 189km mountain test, which took in the two category one monster climbs of Ramaz and Avoriaz, Evans took the yellow jersey for the first time since 2008 to lead Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, who won the stage, by 20secs.

The Australian knows the hard work will come in the final week of the race which features four punishing days in the Pyrenees, and then a long time trial on the penultimate stage.

But ahead of Monday’s rest day, which is followed by a final day in the Alps, the BMC team leader was doubly happy — to still be in the race, and to have the lead.

“I don’t know if everyone saw my fall after 6 km. I thought then that the Tour might be over,” said Evans, who had to ride most of the 2008 edition hampered by injuries after a crash early in the race.

“I had to get treatment from the doctor.”

As Chavanel is not a specialist climber the Frenchman knew he would give up the race lead, but it was not until late on the 14km climb to Avoriaz that Evans was assured of the yellow jersey.

With Spain’s reigning champion Alberto Contador also third at 1min 01sec, the Aussie might not have too much time to enjoy being the Tour de France leader.

Evans admits his BMC team, which has proved to be far more supportive in his bid than Silence-Lotto were last year, will have to come up with a plan.

“We’ll wait for for the stages after tomorrow. We’ll think about it and come up with plan,” he added.

“The Pyrenees are very hard, and Andy’s going well. Also, Contador and Astana are really strong, so we’ll have to see and decide how to approach the mountains.”

Despite Evans’ scrapes from his crash, seven-time champion Lance Armstrong came off far worse, the American crashing before the climb to Ramaz and losing nearly 12 minutes to finish more than 13 minutes behind Evans.

While Schleck suggested the peloton owed it to the American to wait, Evans was less generous in his assessment.

He remembers only too well the times rivals did not wait for him: “To have a crash in a mountain stage of a Tour can be really difficult.

“Today I crashed but two years ago when I crashed in the Tour I had one of hardest days of my career on the stage to Hautacam, with all the bruising and pain.

“That day, I got dropped with (sprinter) Julian Dean on the first climb and was fighting for yellow at the end of day.

“I went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. It was a bit different today.”

A year after losing the race by 23sec to Contador in 2007, Evans was pipped to the yellow jersey on the way to Alpe d’Huez in 2008 by eventual winner Carlos Sastre.

Asked what he has learned since his last stint in the yellow jersey, Evans added: “Believe in yourself, believe in the people around you and stay calm.”

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